TurboPro Project
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TurboPro Project

Greensboro, North Carolina, United States

Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
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"Country Hip Hop Festival"

Yee-Ha! It’s Hip Hop Music, Y’all; Country Hip-Hop Festival At Southpaw
By Stephanie Fletcher

B-STAR combines country fiddle and rhythm guitar with hip-hop rhymes. L-R: Michi Wiancko, Po Dawg and Rench
Everyone knows songs about being down and out, about crime and its consequences, about working hard all week and letting loose on the weekend.

It could be country music; it could be hip-hop. Then again, it could be both, as will be the case at the first-ever Country Hip-Hop Festival, set for March 23 at Southpaw in Park Slope.

Hosted and coordinated by B-STAR, a Brooklyn band that mixes bluegrass harmonies with aggressive hip-hop beats, the festival will feature “hick-hop” acts from all over the world.

Rench, whose real name is Oscar Owens, the 31-year-old lead singer and producer behind the band, has been interested in country hip-hop for almost a decade. In 2001, he formed B-STAR, also known as Battlestar America, a seven-piece band that includes two vocalists, a fiddle, guitar, bass, drums and turntable.

The band’s inspiration, he said, comes from honky-tonk and bluegrass music from the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as “the groove-oriented beat” of old-school hip-hop. While the band mostly plays original work, they have been known to do a funky cover of Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” or a boot-stomping rendition of Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”

“The history of American music is about combining different musical traditions,” said Rench. Modern country, for example, he said, blends elements of Appalachian folk music, gospel and blues.

“Both country and hip-hop are, in a way, folk art forms that came out of poor communities to talk about pain and heartbreak,” he said. Indeed, it’s these universal themes that make country and hip-hop so compatible.

After contemplating the idea of a country hip-hop festival for months, last December Rench started rounding up the hick-hop artists he’d met over the years—often only via the Internet—including North Carolina duo the Turbo Pro Project, Vancouver-based CR Avery, and British “hip-hopry” singer Eminemmylou.

“I found all these people who’d been experimenting with it,” he said. “This festival is about forming connections, people sharing the work they’re doing and inspiring each other.”

Artists have been playing around with country music and hip-hop for decades—Harlem hip-hop legends the Disco Four released the song “Country Rock and Rap” in 1982—and over the past few years, well-known performers like Kid Rock, Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy have introduced variations of hick-hop to mainstream airwaves.

At the same time, independent musicians have been experimenting with rhythm, sampling and instrumentation, each combining country and hip-hop in a unique way.

In creating the Country Hip-Hop Festival, Rench hopes to nudge the as-yet disparate phenomenon into a unified movement.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Eminemmylou, a country singer-turned-rapper from Brighton, England, who will be performing at the festival. “I’ve never been to New York and have certainly never played in a country hip-hop festival, so this is a first for me. I really hope it will mushroom into an annual event, bringing artists from all over.”

Adrian “Turbo” Trbovich, the banjo half of the Turbo Pro Project (which also features Chris “DJ Pro” Prear on turntables), is excited at the chance to expose new people to hick-hop, and he hopes fans of all types of music will catch on.

“What I’ve found is that conceptually, before people hear it, they’re a little confused,” he said. “A lot of people are curious about how it works. This is a great opportunity for us to get our ideas out there.”

Turbo stressed that hick-hop isn’t a just a novelty or some obscure form of performance art. Instead, he said, it’s creative songwriting that combines the best characteristics of different kinds of music.

“A DJ expands the rhythm and texture in a way that other instruments can’t,” he said. “There’s a lot of neat sounds and textures that can be combined into a completely new direction.”

And a new direction is something Turbo sees a need for: “The cookie-cutter music industry is spitting out the same stuff,” he said, “and I think it’s time for something new, something fresh and different.”

Known for hosting a diverse range of musical styles and for being a stalwart of Brooklyn’s thriving country scene, Southpaw was a logical location for the festival.

The 400-capacity, two-story venue—which considers itself “a Brooklyn version of the Knitting Factory”—attracts audiences from all parts of the city to see artists such as KRS-One, Sufjan Stevens, the Cardigans and Cat Power. The club also presented a Johnny Cash Birthday Bash on February 26.

“Southpaw is hands-down the best venue in Brooklyn,” said Rench. “The sound is great there, the space is great, the stage and dance floor are great, and it’s in Park Slope, so it feels down to Earth.”

Doug DeFalco, the assistant talent buyer at Southpaw, has been booking acts, including B-STAR, at the club for the past two years. Although he admits he’s not sure what kind of crowd to expect at the Country Hip-Hop Festival, he thinks the idea suits Southpaw’s image as a place for cutting-edge music.

“No one else in New York is doing what they’re doing, and none of the other acts have performed in New York before,” DeFalco said. “So it’s definitely a gamble, but Rench has been around for a while, and has quite a following.”

It’s a following Rench is hoping to expand: “We draw a handful of country fans, and a handful of hip-hop fans, but there’s a larger audience out there of people with eclectic tastes, who aren’t hardcore fans of either genre, but who can appreciate it,” he said.

DeFalco understands that Rench is banking on Southpaw’s popularity to bring in fans who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to country, hip-hop or any combination of the two. “We don’t try to separated or polarize fans—we try to bring them together,” he said. “That’s what’s great about B-STAR: they’re knocking down walls, and that’s why we’re willing to take a chance on them.”

The Country Hip-Hop Festival starts at 8 p.m. on March 23. Admission is $10. Southpaw is located at 125 Fifth Avenue. (718) 230-0236

- Courier-Life Publications

"California Bluegrass Association CD review"

Turbo Pro Project: Daydream
c. 2008

Song list: Intro, Cluck Old Hen, Daydream, Floo-id, Why Do I Tripp?, Turntables vs. Banjo, Java Groove, Outro

Adrian “Turbo” Trbovich was a member of Laura Love’s Harper Ferry Band at Wintergrass, and his adroit banjo playing helped contribute to the band’s vibrant sound. Turbo’s Turbo Pro Project band features his “banjo hip hop fusion” music.

Other band members include Chris “DJ Pro” Prear who manages the turntables sound in the band, Aaron Soots “the Rhythm Machine” on guitar, Kenn Smith on bass, Milton “DJ Deacon” Cockerham on beats and turntables, and Ryan “RnB” Barber on keyboards.

The word “fusion” is the key word to this band. A heavy rhythm backdrop is punctuated by keyboard notes and heavy metal banjo. Turbo has an electric Deering banjo and his fluid playing makes “Cluck Old Hen” sound supercharged on chicken fuel. The melody is played simply and then all the other instruments are layered on top of the banjo until the whole tune vibrates with rhythm.

“Floo-id” begins with the banjo laying down a melody line with the guitar and keyboards joining in a fluid romp through counter rhythms and melodies. Kenn Smith’s “Why do I Tripp?” has keyboards and bass in flight punctuated with some “ha ha ha ha” vocalizations. “Turntables vs. Banjo” turns the old Arthur Smith “Dueling Banjos” into a musical fantasia interlaced with an ongoing mantra - “to attack without knowing the enemy’s strength is foolish.” Turbo Pro Project has propelled the banjo into a new frontier! - The Breakdown- by Brenda Hough

"Floydfest review #1"

..."Turbo Pro Project has another thing altogether going on. Turbo, which is all over the site this weekend, features keyboard, upright bass, acoustic guitar and banjo -- and a disc jockey working the tables. To this group, it's apparently all the same. Do they call it scratchgrass? I'll try to snag an answer."

comment from same review:

"...On another note: I LOVED TurboPro as well ... caught them twice. That Banjo/Turntablism thing worked really well on Nelly Furtado's "Folklore" album as well as Bubba Sparxx's "Deliverance", but it might have sounded even fresher live on the big speakers." - Tad Dickens- Roanoke Times

"Floydfest review #2"

"...Also saw an interesting band called Turbo Pro Project which featured upright bass, keyboards, guitar, banjo….AND TURNTABLES. And it worked. They call it ‘banjo hip hop fusion’. Have I ever mentioned that banjos are taking over the world?" - Shaun Harvey- Cville Muse

"Floydfest review #3"

"...Turbo Pro Project mixed it up on the Garden stage with their unlikely blend of turntables, keyboard, banjo and stand up bass. I really dug this funky sound."

"...We made it to the main stage for Turbo Pro Project and, once again, I enjoyed this mix of banjo & turntables very much. It was another very pretty day and I kicked back to the funky beats and melodies picking on top." - Lori McKinney- Homegrown Music Network

"Loki festival review"

"...As fans made their way to the Hillside Stage or down to the ice cold lake for a dip, the most unlikely mix of beats rang through the air. The Turbo Pro Project brought their mix-matched combo of twangy bluegrass and R&B beats to the scene. Standing in awe of the unlikely five-member ragtag team of guitar, bass, banjo, DJ and the freestylings of lyricist Ryan "RnB" Barber, swarms of people made their way to the front to check this musical mixture out. With such an unlikely combo of hip-hop and twang, these guys (and girl) combined the two perfectly for a musical journey into the unknown."

comment from same review:

..."Turbo Pro Project caught me by surprise, I had never heard of them. Hope to see more out of them." - Tiffany Narron- Jambase


"Daydream", 2008, self released



This band's unique lineup starts with banjo and turntables and adds upright bass sprinkled with vocals and keys to create a sound like no other. Their freshman CD, "Daydream", features a ground breaking mixture of banjo playing styles with a hip hop groove.